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Fiji TV's licence threatened over crisis

See previous PMW item: http://www.journalism.uts.edu.au/archive/fiji_coup/0529policemandies.html

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SUVA (PMW): Fiji's telecommunications authorities under martial law have threatened Fiji Television Ltd with revoking its operating licence over a current affairs programme about the political crisis which led to an attack on the station, according to news media reports.

Fiji Television reported the threat on its Fiji One News bulletin on the evening of 10 June 2000 along with a strong defence of the station and its programme policy by chief executive Ken Clark.

Fiji's Sunday Post also reported the threat next morning, saying the station had been "blamed for causing civil disturbance in Suva two weeks ago".

The interim military government's telecommunications director Josua Turaganivalu told the Sunday Post the television station's licence could be revoked because of the Close Up programme broadcast on May 28.

Fiji Television has been blamed for the riot that evening in which the station's premises were raided and trashed, broadcast transmission was cut for almost 48 hours, and a policeman was shot who died several hours later.

The television signals were cut during a legal drama series, "The Practice", and equipment was seriously damaged.

Chaired by Fiji Television reporter Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the panellists, political commentator Jone Dakuvula, an indigenous supporter of the 1997 democratic constitution, and Communications Fiji Ltd managing director William Parkinson, were critical of the rebels led by failed businessman George Speight and their three-week-old insurrection.

A mob of between 80 and 200 men, some of them armed, left Parliament shortly after the programme was broadcast, firing shots in the streets, and attacked the Fiji Television offices.

Chief executive Clark was reported by the Sunday Post to have said the Ministry of Communication had made a "wide leap between the television programme and the riot".

He said on television that he was disappointed with the ministry's position that the television programme had "caused" the disturbance.

The Close Up programme on the media coverage was appropriate in the circumstances, he added.

Media industry sources described the programme as balanced and fair, adding that it was "absurd" to blame television for the criminal acts of a "mob of thugs".

Turaganivalu said the ministry wrote to the station a week ago to ask for an explanation why the station had braodcast the programme.

He said Fiji TV had been given until Friday this week to reply but was surprised that the station's chief executive had gone public over the issue.

"We had expected them to write back to us. But [Clark] decided to let the public know about their side of the story first instead of us," he said.

Turaganivalu claimed that the contents of the Close Up item had "clearly breached" a clause prohibiting "such programmes", reported the Sunday Post.

"We are still waiting for them to reply, but that programme was a clear breach of the rules and that basically means that the licence can be revoked," he said.

* Full transcript of the controversial Close Up programme on Fiji Television: http://www.journalism.uts.edu.au/archive/fiji_coup/0529FijiTVDestroyed.htm l

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